You know it. I know it. Canon. The premier camera company in the world. There’s a reason why Canon is on the sidelines of every sports game, out in the tundra with National Geographic, or simply the preferred choice for beginner photographers. They are dependable, sturdy, and have a wide range of options for any budget or any photographer.
The first camera I ever owned was a Canon Rebel XSi, an outdated camera when I began using it and now defunct today, but it produced fantastic images with even better Canon lenses. I now have the Canon 6D Mark II in my bag with a whole host of lenses, from the 50mm f1/.8 to a 70-200mm f/2.8, but I’ve used a good majority of their massive lineup.
Many of my friends have gone to other brands like Sony, Panasonic, film, or even Nikon, but there’s plenty of reasons to start—and stick—with Canon. Let’s get started.
Before we begin, you should know that Canon as a company is massive. They sell printers, professional video cameras, flashes, and various other office and healthcare supplies. This blog will focus on just the still cameras and lenses.
But now to the fun stuff. Canon’s PowerShots begin at just $120, and some of the best ones have features that many DSLRs don’t even have, like HD video at 60 frames per second. While they are point-and-shoot cameras, they set the gold standard, and you’ll see many vloggers use these cameras because they are so small you can put them in your pocket and bring them anywhere—especially concerts.
M Series and EOS R
If you want to go mirrorless, and you’ve heard that Sony is the way to go, I invite you to check out Canon’s line of mirrorless cameras, especially their M series, if you just want to get into that line of products. However, Canon just (literally two weeks ago) introduced a new mirrorless camera, the EOS R. It is a thing of beauty, and when it finally starts shipping in a few weeks, I fully expect the reviews to come in solid. I will definitely be trying it out, but just from looking at the specs and the body online, I love that it could look like a DSLR. It has Canon’s traditional solid build, which I feel has been missing from the mirrorless game.
However: it’s the DSLR family that Canon truly excels at. They’ve been making cameras since before the second World War, and it shows when you pick up one of their products. The line starts with the crop sensor cameras, like the Canon Rebel, a camera that has improved dramatically over the years, and is many people’s first choice when they get into photography. The Rebel series starts at $550, and the top of the line has better autofocus, fps, and sensors than some full frame cameras.
I also suggest Rebel cameras to people who ask me what camera to get first. No matter what Rebel you get, they have modes to help you understand how your camera works, more features than any traditionalist like me could ever want like Bluetooth and WiFi, but also cool video features like time-lapse.
A quick note as I move onto the D series: the lower the number that comes before the D, the (typically) better the camera. First, the 80, 77, and 70D. If you haven’t heard of the YouTuber Casey Neistat, please check him out here. Up until about two years ago, he was using the Canon 80D to film all of his daily videos, and that right there should say enough. They are workhouses that can go all day and night capturing your world.
6D and 7D Series
Next, the 6 and 7D series. The 7D Mark II and both of the 6Ds are some of my favorite cameras. I’ve taken all of them to the sides of football games, and they have never failed. The 7D Mark II is especially impressive, with 65 autofocus points and high-speed shooting up to 10 fps, which sounds like a machine gun firing rounds. When you hit the shutter, people turn and stare. It’s incredibly strong too. DigitalRev did an incredible video in 2012, where they lit a 7D on fire. Viewer discretion advised—could make you squeamish if you don’t drop your camera that often.
The 6D was the first camera that was truly mine, and its image quality is amazing. While not so great for on-the-go video (the 6D Mark II excels at this), please go check out the USC Photo Club Facebook page for our fall 2018 welcome back video (shameless plug). I shot that video entirely on my 6D and was thrilled with the results.
5D and 1D Series
Finally, let’s move onto the 5D and 1D series. I will say this right now—these cameras are for the professional. The 1DX Mark II is the gold standard for sports photography. 14 fps, 61 autofocus points, ISO above 400,000, 4K video at 60 fps, and a rugged body. You don’t get much better than this. I’ve used it before, and you know you’re dealing with the big boys when you carry this. The 5D Mark IV is the same. I think of it as Canon’s flagship DSLR. It is what you’ll see photographers using for photos and videos at weddings, on runways, and everything in between. 30 megapixels, 4K video, and all the bells and whistles techies love. I won’t go into the rest of the 1D and 5D lineup, but you can’t go wrong with anything you choose.
Nearly all of these cameras I’ve listed so far have one thing in common: they can all take EF lenses. That’s what makes Canon so powerful. It can mount any one of its upward of 100 lenses to any of its cameras, as well as art lenses from other companies.
Sometimes Canon is lovingly referred to as “Cannon” because yes, they make the lenses that are multiple feet long, but I won’t get into those “Super-telephoto” lenses, only the ones that I have, because I’ve accrued a variety over the years. In my bag, there is the 50mm f/1.8. Like everything Canon, it’s a workhouse for a price (around $100). It was the first lens I got, and the first lens I suggest anyone get, because it’s small, but that wide aperture really lets you get shots that look professional, and Canon’s has barely any elements, which means the sharpness is incredible.
Next, I have the 17-40 f/4 L. The L series lenses from Canon means there is an extra level of quality in the product. They are made with better material, and more thought and time go into the production. I got the 17-40 instead of the 16-35 f/2.8 L because of the price difference, but the great thing about Canon is that I have never noticed the difference. This is a wide angle lens, and I have shot plenty of astrophotography and landscapes, not once having wished for something else. Image quality never disappoints, and I’ve printed many of the shots from this lens.
Last, but certainly not least, the 70-200 f/2.8 L II. This is the lens that almost all professionals have in their bag. Despite the fact that it’s a telephoto, it is the most versatile lens I have seen. Of course it’s great on the sideline of a basketball game, but I shoot all of my portraits on it as well because the background compresses at high focal lengths, and even landscapes look great. There is no distortion around the edges of the photos, the lens isn’t so heavy that you have to carry it around in a rolling bag, and I’ve dropped it plenty of times with no damage done.
That’s Canon. I have stuck with them and will stick with them because they are a brand that knows who they are, builds for the future, and will last long into it.